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After six years away from directing feature films, Neill Blomkamp will return to a cinema near you later this summer with Demonic. Not only is it his first movie in over half a decade — it also marks his first foray into the horror space. Carly Pope (the actress previously worked with the filmmaker on 2013's Elysium) headlines the project as a woman who unwittingly unleashes demons after discovering that supernatural forces are to blame for an emotional chasm between her and her mother.
Recently speaking with Empire for the magazine's July 2021 issue, Blomkamp revealed that he originally planned to make Demonic in the found footage style. The idea wasn't entirely out of his wheelhouse, as the film that first put him on the map, District 9, was presented (at least in part) as a faux documentary.
"I was always a fan of The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity," Blomkamp said. "I was also a fan of the way that those filmmakers just went out and shot something in their backyard." So, what changed? Simple: the production was offered more money. Even with a doubled budget that allowed him to shoot the thing "more traditionally," Blomkamp still wanted to rough it as much as possible.
"It's genuinely a child of the pandemic," he continued. It was born out of, 'How do we go into the backwoods and shoot something while we're waiting [for the world to reopen]?'" And that's exactly what happened. It took less than two months to write the script before the 24-day shoot kicked off completely under the radar in Canada last summer.
And while this is his first time playing in the horror sandbox, the writer-director couldn't fully give up his sci-fi roots. In Demonic, there exists a technology that allows patients to confront the demons living inside their bodies by entering a comatose state. "We wanted to use volumetric capture as a technique somehow," Blomkamp explained. "It's three-dimensionally capturing actors in full hair and make-up. You can't alter anything. It's like the opposite of normal visual effects."
The ultimate goal was to capture "a sense of dread brewing under the surface."
Demonic heads to theaters, digital, and VOD Friday, Aug. 20.